Conservatives need a culture war Blitzkrieg
The Right cannot embroil itself in an endless conflict — victory must be swift
On the face of it, the Republican victory in Virginia this week presents an attractive path to power for conservatives. Riding to victory on a platform of rolling back the Critical Race Theory or CRT ideology beloved of American HR administrators and schoolteachers (though strange and repellant to almost everybody else), the GOP strategy functioned like a form of martial arts that uses its opponents’ institutional strength against them. The enemy to be defeated was not simply the Democrat candidate but the entire superstructure of managerial liberalism: every officious administrator, smug journalist or unhinged social media liberal combined into one amorphous mass to help make the GOP candidate’s case for him. The enemy was not so much a politician, or even an ideology, as an entire social class.
No wonder British conservatives, as in Mary Harrington’s excellent UnHerd piece on the strategy’s architect Chris Rufo’s “right-wing Leninism,” see in the Virginia contest a workable lesson for their own campaign against Britain’s inept and unpopular managerial class, surely the central mission of any conservative counterrevolution. After all, what can be more satisfying than driving your enemies before you, metaphorically torching their institutional citadels and hearing the lamentation of their CommentIsFree columns? The idea is not dissimilar, at all, to our own Dominic Cummings’ alleged plan to make the culture wars central to Tory political strategy.
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Yet there is a trap here Conservatives seem poised to fall into. The greatest danger is, that like abortion or gun control on opposite sides of the American political spectrum, the culture wars become viewed by political parties as a useful tool to harvest votes by riling up their base, tempting them to prolong them interminably. This would ultimately be disastrous. The aim of political conflict must not be to embroil yourself in an endless war but to win a swift and decisive victory— and a figure like Boris Johnson cannot set himself up as tribune of the plebs for long without delivering visible victories.
The Culture Wars must be a one-time only campaign: instead of an Afghanistan-like slog that grinds on interminably, with victory forever on the horizon, conservatives should aim for a culture Blitzkrieg, a bold fait accompli that reshapes the world in their image: a Great Reset, if you will. And here is the greatest structural weakness for any conservative counterrevolution: conservatives have settled into a lazy comfort zone of opposition to woke excess without a positive vision of what should replace it.
Take GB News as a proxy for the conservative mindset: we all know what it is against but what is it for? What is its vision of victory, of the good life and a correctly ordered society? By becoming purely reactive to the ideology of managerial liberalism, conservatives have neglected to build their own positive vision. Grumbling about woke students and deranged HR powerpoint presentations is not enough: they have failed to advance their own alternative case for what should replace the current system, or nurture the intellectual and institutional ecosystem to embed it within national life.
The danger is that, like the feverish anti-Trumpism of America’s liberal commentariat or the Brexit denialism of our own, a poorly-strategised single-issue culture war leads conservatives into a cul-de-sac, birthing ephemeral victories but setting up future defeats. The point of wars is after all not to keep fighting them, but to win them for once and for all.
Do we need an alternative? In some cases yes but in many sectors, liberal institutional capture goes hand in hand with institutional excess.
Universities could be cut back by 40-60% without impacting the skills base of the economy, based on the number of graduates in none graduate level jobs. Whilst the BBC could be limited to purely public service television for a fraction of the cost, with the private sector picking up the shows people actually want to watch.
Public sector reform and the culture wars should go hand in hand with each other.
Make universities own their own loan books. If their graduates don’t repay their student loans, the university’s funding is reduced. Pretty soon you will have an overall reduction in the size of the sector with the losses being the worthless humanities courses rather than lucrative STEM and vocational degrees (whose graduates can afford to repay their loans).
As a rebuke to the new iconoclasts, we should spend a few million on erecting new statues. The theme should be British heroes. There should be a committee of sound historians assembled to select the subjects. Every time Boris unveiled a new statue of say, David Livingstone or Walter Raleigh, the woke left would flip out but the general public would applaud and we would be rebuilding a shared sense of British history and identity which is in danger of disappearing under a wave a relativism.
Very good idea.
The culture war is not new – it’s been waged against the populace for a very long time now and on every front. We see evidence of it in education, entertainment, news, and politics. The idea behind it is to make us compliant and dependent on government for handouts and protection to carry out deviant lifestyles.
By claiming that parents have no business nosing around in their children’s education, the Democrats gave the Republicans a golden ticket in that they can now declare themselves the party of parents.
The vaccine mandates are a part of this culture war too. Comply or be ostracized. It feels like punishment rather than cure.
I like your point about standing up for something, as opposed to mere criticism. There’s certainly a shift among conservatives from neo-cons to populism.
However, I’d propose the cultural war started in the 60s, specifically, 1968 with the student revolutions in Paris. My point being: the cultural war won’t be won overnight, or solely through legislation. The heart of the issue is future generations getting indoctrinated.
I’ve noticed a tendency among leftists to dismiss anything the Right does as ‘fighting a cultural war.’ Well, duh! The Cultural war is worth fighting. Or as I like to call it, The Glorious War For Our Culture Against Leftist Aggression (I’m half joking!)
“And here is the greatest structural weakness for any conservative counterrevolution: conservatives have settled into a lazy comfort zone of opposition to woke excess without a positive vision of what should replace it.”
The Woke (Post-modernist, Cultural Neo-Marxist, Atheist-Secular Humanist, Intersectionalist Identity-Politics, anti-Patriots.) have won the Orwellian fight by making saying what you believe in a crime, and what they believe in, decent logic. Take BLM as an example, what are you going to say? They have made an accusation equal to guilty. You cannot say what should replace it – so twisted have the Left made language.
““Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.”
― Joseph Stalin “
This fight against the education Left Fas* ists is at the core of defeating them as they hold a monopoly on education – thus have taken every school and university, and by that very many government offices, and now the desks of industry. This is the battleground which will decide the fate of the West.
“Take GB News as a proxy for the conservative mindset: we all know what it is against but what is it for? What is its vision of victory, of the good life and a correctly ordered society?”
This is actually a very good question. If it had been posed a decade ago the answer would have been pretty simple: a return to small-State conservatism, with a wholesale rejection of liberal-left political correctness and the bureaucracy it spawns. The problem, of course, is that the EU and the need to leave it aligned traditional Tories with social conservatives on the Left at the expense of the small-state – and low tax – ideology that is supposed to be the unique selling point of the Right.
So if GBNews doesn’t know exactly what it stands for, it’s arguable that this is not GBNews’ fault in a world where political battle lines are being redrawn. It is worth pointing out of course that on the opening night, Andrew Neil spent an hour explaining in detail exactly what GB News was for, and it had nothing to do with a specific position on the political spectrum, but it is obvious nonetheless that GB News does exist to assert a certain set of political values that stand in contrast to the liberal-left consensus upon which the rest of the UK’s broadcast media has converged.
That said, I think there is nothing actually wrong with saying “We’re the people who reject the insane idea that a man can opt into becoming a woman, who disagree that white people are inherently racist and owe the other races of the world an apology for their own existence, and who will not permit the advances in the human condition delivered by industrialisation to be reversed on the basis of what amounts to a baseless secular superstition.”
If you want to know what the modern right-winger is for, the answer is simply defeating insane ideas such as this.
Yes but if so that version of right wing would include socially conservative socialists, or people who are happy with a large state.
In fact plenty of libertarians are socially liberal, which they consider a consistent philosophy, and I suppose it is. It’s just not all that useful combatting the modern left.
Nothing is won forever. The natural state of human civilisation is to be at war, in one form or another. The best one can hope for is to mostly be on the winning side during one’s lifespan.
There speaks a true conservative. I add… and the lifetimes of our children and our children’s children.
I’m more optimistic than many.
The curse of spam email about 15, 20 years ago was ultimately defeated because to be worth the sender’s while sending, it ultimately had to state its message and be sent in bulk. As the messages were always so similar it became possible to filter almost all of it.
In the same way, hard leftism is always rumbled because no matter how it dresses itself up, its point is always to implement hard leftism, so it has to admit it eventually. And then nobody votes for it.
This latter is why only the left has to do this. You don’t get parties pretending to be something else that are in reality conservative. It simply doesn’t happen, because if you want to get elected and you’re a conservative, the best way is just to say you’re a conservative.
The left will always keep sprouting new heads but the tone always gives it away.
great article Aris, very insightful. And i wonder if you have actually got your conclusion back to front.
“The point of wars is after all not to keep fighting them, but to win them for once and for all.”
that might be true for wars but the point of political parties is to sustain the party, their is no incentive to win a war and all the incentive to stoke and prolong them when that sustains the party.
If there is hope for change its not from any existing political party, perhaps in local community or in technological advancements that render the existing political systems even more redundant, but not in the Conservative or Republic parties themselves.
Surely our Conservatives are making decisions based on their beliefs rather than creating an Ideology!
They’re not labelling what they do with words. Eg the women and non-white folk are being promoted without a lot of singing and dancing.
Personally I think the opposite. As long as the left embraces crazy ideologies like trans then it will be toast long term. If there any agent provocateurs willing to try get into a segregated Muslim swimming session as a trans male it would be worth doing it. The gender identity ideology is the lefts Achilles heel.
I’m sure there are many practical solutions, but the conservative case has indeed often been a ‘negative’ one of opposing malevolent social change and the answers should be, already there in many areas.
For example, no, there are not ‘hundreds’ of genders, no, boys cannot say they are ‘really’ girls (they, objectively are not). This is incorporated into standards of academics and school teachers. If they don’t like it, they can leave the profession. Maybe a bit more subtle than than that but it could be done with a little guile and getting the public onside, which they would overwhelmingly be.
There you are, a ‘solution’ in one area of policy, but with a real fight on your hands!
At the moment the evidence is, unfortunately, that Conservatives talk Right and act identitarian Left, in all too many areas.
After such a thin, glib analysis, one is tempted to ask and…??
In Virginia the critical issue was not merely woke CRT curriculum.It was parental control over local education. The Democratic candidate, endorsed and heavily funded by state and national teachers unions, declared that parents should not have input into school curriculum decisions. They should be made by teachers. Since parents in the US pay local taxes to support their schools, this amounts to taxation without representation. This is an issue much larger than CRT in the US and it will be carried into local elections going forward.
You cannot claim the administrative state has no responsibility to concern itself with local taxpayers.
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